Foreign Policy

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Although the U.S. has done some things right when it comes to foreign policy and military engagements, its practices of imperialism and manifest destiny have resulted in human rights abuses when it comes to groups like the Hawaiians, Filipinos, Native Americans, Mexicans, Vietnamese, etc. The following is a comprehensive analysis of U.S. history when it comes to foreign policy and military engagements for after all, those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. The track record of the United States on foreign policy should prove cautionary to those eager to quickly engage the nation in future conflicts.

Good Wars[edit]

Revolutionary War[edit]

The Revolutionary War was fought because England insisted on taxing the colonies without providing them representation. The Declaration of Independence outlines a long list of the grievances that the settlers had against England.

Somerset Case and Potential Slavery Motivations[edit]

Nonetheless, not all of the colonists' intentions may have been wholly honorable. England had just issued a major ruling allowing the freeing of U.S. slaves once they reached British soil per Somerset v. Stewart (1772), and southern plantation owners may have been incentivized to rebel to protect the institution of slavery.[1] In Knight v. Wedderburn (1778) the courts in Scotland held that slaves, once on free soil, became free and could not be returned as slaves to British colonies.

Barbary Wars[edit]

It was not just whites who enslaved blacks, but blacks who enslaved whites. African nations, like Native American and European nations (see e.g. the Volga Trade Route and Ottoman Slave Trade), would enslave their conquered enemies in war. Numerous Africans were sold by their enemies into slavery to Americans, but what is not commonly known is that African countries enslaved white Americans for sale in the African slave trade.

The Barbary Wars (1801-1805; 1815-1816) occurred because three North African Muslim nations, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers used their navies to hijack U.S. ships at the beginning of American history when it did not have a navy. Treaties with the three Islamic countries made at the time all show how much influence they held in the bargaining process. Nonetheless, the treaties were broken, resulting in the First and Second Barbary Wars to stop the enslavement of white Americans for the African slave trade.[2]

Moroccan Treaty[edit]

A notable exception was Morocco which, unlike the other three nations, acknowledged the right of the fledgling U.S. government to exist. The U.S. treaty with Morocco is one of the United States' oldest unbroken treaties.[3]

Civil War[edit]

The Republican Union fought to free slaves while the South's Democrats fought on the side of the Confederacy to preserve slavery.

Military Presidents[edit]

For decades afterwards, Republican Presidents were exclusively military leaders who had fought in the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) had been the Union's Commanding General of the U.S. Army. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) was a Brevet Major General. James A. Garfield (1881) was a Major General. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) was a Quartermaster General. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) was a Brevet Brigadier General. William McKinley (1897-1901) was a Brevet Major. As the first Republican President in over 40 years to have not served in the Civil War, it's small wonder that Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) felt so much pressure to be a war hero, given his predecessors, that he engineered the Spanish-American War so he could lead the Rough Riders.

World War I[edit]

World War I began because Germany insisted on supporting Austria in an attempt to take over Europe. Germany slaughtered thousands of Belgian civilians in what is known as the Rape of Belgium and the U.S. only entered the war after Germany sank several U.S. ships including most notably the Lusitania, killing over a thousand innocent people.[4]

World War II[edit]

As proud as the U.S. should be of its fight to eradicate a global evil like the Axis Powers, even in World War II its track record can hardly be identified as perfect or ideal.

Reluctance to Enter the War[edit]

World War II is a case where the U.S. was, if anything, too reluctant to take action against a global evil, the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Franklin D. Roosevelt dragged his feet in bringing the U.S. into the war, allowing for numerous European countries to fall prey to Hitler's war machine and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, although the U.S. did manufacture equipment for the Allied Forces.[5]

Turning Away Jewish Refugees[edit]

Then there is the matter of the U.S. turning away Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi Holocaust.[6]

Japanese Internment Camps[edit]

One of the most shameful aspects of World War II occurred with the treatment of Japanese-American citizens, who were rounded up and forced into concentration camps along the west coast of the United States under FDR's executive order 9066.[7]

Bad Wars[edit]

Native Americans[edit]

U.S. history books have generally glossed over the crimes the U.S. government has perpetrated against Native Americans. Although some of the early colonies practiced peaceful and fair dealings with the Native Americans (see William Penn's 1682 Province of Pennsylvania and Roger Williams' 1641 Province of Rhode Island), they were exceptions, not the rule.

Penn and Williams' Peaceful Colonies[edit]

See also Separation of Church and State

William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1682 (which included modern-day Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) walked among the Native Americans unarmed, learned their languages, and insisted on fairly purchasing land from them. Penn's Province of Pennsylvania proved the basis for the later U.S. Constitution.

Roger Williams in 1636 founded the Colony of Rhode Island, the earliest successful democracy on American soil, which included the principle of religious freedom (which he exposited in 'The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience' - 1644[9]) because he believed forced worship "stincks in God’s nostrils."[10]

He also founded America's first Baptist Church in 1638, its first anti-slavery organization, and edited the first dictionary of Native American languages.[11] Williams too walked among the Native Americans unarmed, learned their languages and dialects, and even surrendered himself as a hostage to negotiate peace on several occasions (in the cases of Pessicus in 1645 and Metacom in 1671).[12] Despite his best efforts in 1675 to broker peace between the warring English and Native Americans after the English attacked Native American lands, during which he surrendered himself as a hostage to guarantee the safe return of Chief Metacom, war broke out with both sides committing horrific atrocities. A Wampanoag war party even showed up outside Providence, Rhode Island, and when Penn went out to talk with them, they left him unharmed but attacked and burned the city including Williams' own house. As Williams told them, "That house of mine now burning before mine eyes lodged kindly some thousands of you for these ten years." Left without recourse, Williams would finally turn military commander and defeat the neighboring tribes in battle to protect Rhode Island, driving them out of the area.[13]

Broken Treaties[edit]

Other colonies and later states created treaties with the Natives that were broken, or took advantage of the language barrier to steal their land or otherwise defraud them. Examples include the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 and Treaty K, signed during the Gold Rush, which California officials avoided keeping by pressuring the U.S. Senate to refuse ratification during the Gold Rush for the sake of monetary gain.[14] In some cases the early British colonists even gave the Natives smallpox-infected blankets or poisoned their drinking water to kill men, women, and children indiscriminately.[15]

Misconceptions on Scalping[edit]

Some Native American tribes were peaceful, such as the Narragansett tribe which welcomed Roger Williams, whereas others were warfaring, enslaving other tribes and killing women and children viciously. Although American culture has normalized the myth of vicious Native American warriors scalping their enemies, the practice was actually normalized (though not invented) by European settlers during the French and Indian War. The British and French forces hired Native American tribes to fight for them against one another, with scalping the method of keeping count, or coup, of how many enemies they had killed.[16] In some cases, European settlers even practiced scalping themselves.[17]

Trail of Tears[edit]

One of the worst genocidal actions by the U.S. government was perpetrated by President Andrew Jackson as part of his Indian removal policy. Between 1838 and 1839, 15,000 Cherokees were forcibly evicted from their tribal lands east of the Mississippi River by the U.S. government and forced at gunpoint to march across the United States to a reservation in Oklahoma. 4,000 Cherokees died of disease, fatigue, and starvation during the march.[18]

Battle of Little Bighorn[edit]

Genocide Against the Cheyenne[edit]

Richard Hardorff in "Washita Memories: Eyewitness Views of Custer's Attack on Black Kettle's Village" describes how the U.S. government repeatedly betrayed the Cheyenne tribe, breaking treaty after treaty with them, before General Custer had them murdered in cold blood in what the 1924 Indian Bureau labeled genocide. As observed by the History Channel, "On November 26, Custer located a large village of Cheyenne encamped near the Washita River, just outside of present-day Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Custer did not attempt to identify which group of Cheyenne was in the village, or to make even a cursory reconnaissance of the situation. Had he done so, Custer would have discovered that they were peaceful people and the village was on reservation soil, where the commander of Fort Cobb had guaranteed them safety. There was even a white flag flying from one of the main dwellings, indicating that the tribe was actively avoiding conflict... Within a few hours, the village was destroyed–the soldiers had killed 103 Cheyenne, including the peaceful Black Kettle and many women and children. Hailed as the first substantial American victory in the Indian wars, the Battle of the Washita helped to restore Custer’s reputation and succeeded in persuading many Cheyenne to move to the reservation."[19]

Custer's Folly[edit]

Given General Custer's immoral slaughter of women and children to advance his reputation, it is fitting that his name is best remembered with shame after he walked into an ambush. While U.S. historybooks have long painted this as a "massacre" by vicious Indians, in fact it was Custer who was attempting to once again slaughter women and children. His own cruelty led to his demise. Custer just two years before the Battle of Little Bighorn boasted about how he used the tactic of threatening the lives of women and children to gain victory:

Lieutenant Edward Settle Godfrey concluded that Custer's unusual detour was part of an attempt to attack what he saw as an undefended camp of women and children, in a repeat of his attack on Black Kettle.

Unaware of the number of troops below, Custer foolishly rushed to attack, and his 600 men were quickly overwhelmed by more than 3,000 Native Americans; less than an hour later Custer and all of his troops were dead.[23]

1924 Indian Citizenship Act[edit]

The 1924 Indian Citizenship Act was signed into law by Republican President Calvin Coolidge following its passage by a Republican-run Congress, finally providing Native Americans with U.S. citizenship. However, no record of the vote count in either the House or Senate has been preserved.

Mexican-American War[edit]

It is little-known that the Mexican-American War occurred because Mexico outlawed slavery. As Frederick Douglass pointed out in his address at Belfast Ireland, Mexico originally opened its borders to modern-day Texas (then part of Mexico) because it had too much land and not enough settlers. Numerous Americans came in, many of them bringing their slaves. However, Mexico then outlawed slavery in 1829. The ex-American slaveholders attempted to circumvent this by declaring slaves indentured servants, but this too was outlawed by Mexico. Furious, the settlers, led by Sam Austin, petitioned the U.S. government, claiming that Texas wanted to cede from Mexico. U.S. President James Polk, along with the Democratic Party, acceded to the request, knowing that more slave states were needed to protect the institution of slavery at a time when free states were beginning to outnumber the slave states. Thus the U.S. started a war with Mexico to create more slave states out of the captured territory (Texas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado).

Polk sent U.S. troops to the border between the U.S. and Texas to start a war, and then falsely claimed that Mexican troops attacked first. As a result, three U.S. Presidents all condemned the Mexican-American War because of Democrats' dishonesty in starting a war on false pretenses in the name of slavery, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and John Quincy Adams.[24] Ulysses S. Grant even expressed the view that the Civil War was God's divine punishment upon America for its unjust actions in the Mexican-American War, stating, "Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times."[25]

To quote Frederick Douglass:

Opposition by U.S. Presidents and Republican Party[edit]

Annexation of Hawaii[edit]

In 1887 a group of cabinet officials and advisors to King Kalakaua along with an armed militia staged a coup against the ruling monarchy, the Kingdom of Hawaii, which had been recognized as an independent nation by France and Britain since 1843.

Between 1893 and 1898 the U.S. government backed a coup against the Kingdom of Hawaii and its Native residents. U.S. immigrants in the kingdom called upon John L. Stevens, a Republican politician and Hawaiian ambassador, to help take over Hawaii. Stevens had the Marines sent in to depose the Queen of Hawaii's government, resulting in her surrender to avoid loss of life for her subjects. Republican President Benjamin Harrison initially supported the annexation, but when President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, took office, he initially rejected the annexation and forced an investigation. The resulting Blount Report criticized the U.S. government's overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the businessmen who had plotted the whole ordeal.

However, when the Spanish-American War broke out, Cleveland conceded to Congressional pressure and annexed Hawaii because the U.S. needed a military base in the Pacific.[31] In 1993 Congress issued the Apology Resolution formally apologizing for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, one of the few times the U.S. has formally apologized for its actions.[30]

Annexation of the Phillipines[edit]

Spanish-American War[edit]

The U.S. actions towards the Philippines were the result of the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War. The Spanish-American War occurred because Cuba, previously a holding of the Spanish government, rebelled against Spain in a 3-year war for independence. Following the mysterious explosion and sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine off the coast of Havana, the U.S. declared war against Spain. The 4-month war, instigated in part by future President Teddy Roosevelt, who led the 'Rough Riders' into combat, resulted in the Treaty of Paris as Spain ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S., and sold the Philippines for $20 million.[32]

Filipino Revolution[edit]

However, the Spanish sale of the Philippines did not guarantee Filipino cooperation. On February 4, 1899, two days before the U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris, armed conflict broke out between U.S. forces and Filipino rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo seeking independence. By the time the three-year war concluded, 4,200 American soldiers, 20,000 Filipino militants, and 200,000 Filipino civilians had died, the latter as the result of "violence, famine, and disease."[33]

Atrocities were perpetrated by both sides during the war:

After the Filipinos adopted guerilla warfare tactics against the vastly superior U.S. military, the U.S. resorted to a strategy called the 'policy of attraction' to defeat the rebels through cultural means.

Vietnam War[edit]

See also Civil Rights

The Vietnam War was pushed by Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson, a racist who had Martin Luther King wiretapped and ultimately assassinated by the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI sent King a letter demanding he commit suicide, and then issued a false report accusing him of being a communist within weeks of his assassination. The FBI under Hoover had numerous other civil rights figures assassinated during Johnson's tenure as President from 1963 to 1969.


The Viet Minh, a Communist government in Vietnam founded by Ho Chi Minh, was formed during World War II to fight off not only the Japanese forces/Axis Powers but also the French colonial forces which had previously subjugated Vietnam. France then backed Bao Dai as a colonial emperor to form a South Vietnamese government, but he was then ousted by Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem's repressive rule saw around 100,000 people arrested, many of them brutally tortured and executed. Nonetheless, the U.S. under Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson backed Diem authoritarian regime in an effort to oppose Communism.

Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Du Assassinated[edit]
See also Assassinations Timeline

The leader of South Vietnam, a repressive dictator, and his brother, who had been backed by Kennedy's administration to counter the North Vietnamese Communist government of Ho Chi Minh, were both assassinated. Although U.S. officials declaimed responsibility, it was later revealed that U.S. officials organized the assassination.[34] The resulting instability would serve as the pretext for Lyndon B. Johnson to begin the Vietnam War. The assassinations are part of a broader trend of assassinations by Lyndon B. Johnson and FBI head J. Edgar Hoover from 1963 to 1969. Most of those assassinated were leaders of the civil rights movement or the assassins themselves.

Gulf of Tonkin Incident[edit]

The Vietnam War began because of a likely-fabricated attack on U.S. destroyers that had been sent near Vietnamese waters. According to James Stockdale, the destroyers were shooting at nothing, and declassified documents have since revealed the Gulf of Tonkin incident was likely faked to start a war with Vietnam.[35] Following the phony attack, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing war with North Vietnam.

Iraq War[edit]


Hillary Clinton's leaked emails show that Libya, previously a colony of France, was attempting to break free of French financial control by establishing its own pan-African currency using a private stash of gold and silver worth $7 billion owned by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Such a move endangered the French financial system which controls Africa using the franc. The emails, dated April 11th, 2011 record the French rush to attack Libya because of the Gaddafi's intention to replace French currency with his own.[36]

Theft of Gaddafi's Gold[edit]

Less than three weeks after the email, the Obama Administration announced the use of drone strikes on Libya.[37] Just weeks earlier, Obama had initiated war against Libya. In doing so, Obama committed one of the most impeachable actions of his presidency, instituting war via executive order without the consent of Congress when there was no national emergency.[38] It is unclear what happened to Gaddafi's fortune.[39]


Bay of Pigs Operation[edit]

The U.S. under Democrat President John F. Kennedy funded a mission to overthrow Cuban President Fidel Castro, and organized a clandestine operation known as the Bay of Pigs, funding exiled Cuban rebels to invade Cuba. Exiled cuban rebels were transported by planes and ships to attack Cuban airfields with the intent of toppling the Cuban government. The operation went poorly due to the strategies of Castro's head tactician Che Guevara, was exposed, and naturally made the U.S. look horrible in the process.[41]

Operation Mongoose[edit]

Undeterred, the U.S. government funded another attempt at bringing down Castro's government, overseen by Robert F. Kennedy. Operation Mongoose was intended to incite revolution against Castro through espionage and sabotage. Needless to say, it similarly failed.[42]

Castro's Imperialism[edit]

Nonetheless, the U.S. in seeking to overthrow Castro for a broader political goal was doing to Castro's regime only what the Castro regime was doing to other countries in the name of Communism. Castro and Che Guevara had earlier brought their forces to Cuba, toppling the government after years of guerrilla warfare, to force their Marxist beliefs on other countries. Although Cuba's government did produce some reforms in the name of helping the people like mass education, it did so by stifling democratic freedoms such as speech.

Guevara, a brilliant strategist whose forces had outfought ten times as many troops in Cuba, attempted to repeat the success in Cuba by invading both Angola and Bolivia with guerrilla forces in an effort to spread Communism across the globe. However, the native populations were unsympathetic to Communism while the CIA tracked his every move, intervening at key points, resulting in Guevara's execution in Bolivia.

As such, the U.S. actions attempting to topple Castro's regime were no more imperialistic than those of Castro himself. It is difficult to criticize the actions of the U.S. towards Castro without questioning Castro's own toppling of the original Cuban government via foreign interference while attempting to alter governments worldwide.


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